Booking Tips

How to Save Money on Hotels

Start your hotel search as early as you can. The longer stretch of time you have to search the better deal you’ll likely find.

Booking early isn’t only about great deals. Early bookers get the best rooms.

If your dates can be flexible then compare different date ranges for the best rates. Hotels can fill up for a big convention or big event. Busy and expensive one weekend. Empty and cheap the next.

Flip-flop weekends and weekdays. Hotels target different types of travelers which will have very different weekday and weekend routines. Hotels that have a large business clientele can be very quiet (with large discounts) on weekends. Hotels that see more leisure tourists will be packed on weekends but cheaper on weekdays.

Think upgrade: book the least expensive room through a booking website then contact the hotel directly to inform them of special requirements or enquire about any available upgrades – if the hotel is quiet they’ll often be free or for a nominal charge.


When is the Best Time to Book Hotels?

Here’s a huge generalization that works pretty well for most situations: For hotels that have a business clientele the last week to 10 days will get you the best deals. For hotels and resorts that have tourists as their primary guests then booking 2 months to 6 months prior to your stay is likely the best.

Why? Business travelers are much more likely to arrange and make last-minute (or last week) travel plans. A month before a given date, a hotel in the financial district of London might not have many bookings but will not start discounting those rooms yet. It will still expect to make a lot of bookings in the week or two before that time frame.

Often it’s not just about the price. Early booking will get you the best rooms at a similar price to the less coveted rooms. E.g. A huge family room that is only a little more than a cramped double room.

A hotel in Cancun, Phuket, or Bali that has a lot of openings in a month will start to worry. Most of its guests should have already booked those rooms so the hotel will start to aggressively discount those rooms.


What Day of the Week Has the Best Hotel Deals?

It depends what type of hotel you’re booking.

Business hotels will offer bigger discounts on the weekends (when business clients are at home). Budget hotels will have empty rooms (and discounts) through the week because the people that stay there (weekend shoppers, concert goers, university students) come on there weekends and return home Sunday night.


What’s Included and Are There Extra Fees?

When you’re comparing different rates from different websites be sure to check what’s included in the quoted price. Are there extra fees and taxes?

Extra costs could include an of the following:


  • City, State, and Country taxes
  • City, State, and Country surcharges and other fees
  • Booking service fees (often disguised as hotel charges)
  • Hotel energy surcharge
  • Hotel resort fee
  • Spa or swimming pool fee
  • Phone or internet availability fee
  • Short stay surcharge or room cleaning fee
  • Parking
  • Credit card surcharge
  • Clearly it’s not easy to compare 2 rates with all these extras to consider. Taxes and booking fees are the biggest ones so if you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on those and you should be fine.

If you’re staying at a big resort it might be wise to check the hotel’s official website to look for extra fees that may be applied (e.g. a charge for using the spa).

Most websites have search options for the following specifics:

  • Swimming Pool (Indoor and Outdoor)
  • Spa
  • Fitness Center
  • Kitchenettes
  • Wi-fi
  • Parking
  • Location (and vicinity of the airport).
  • Airport Shuttle
  • Non-Smoking Rooms
  • Rooms or Facilities for Disabled Guests

Be sure to use these if you’re looking for a hotel with special features or characteristics as in my experience they’re accurate.


A final tip, is to check whether breakfast is included. When you arrive at the hotel you can even ask (with a tone of voice that expects that it is included). It’s often of little cost to the hotel to serve another buffet breakfast but this can be a huge savings for you especially over the course of a week or extended stay.


10 Tips for Booking Hotels Online

This is the cheat sheet for booking hotels online.


  • Print your confirmation email (or have easy access to it on your phone) to show at reception. 9 times out of 10 you won’t need it but on occasion the hotel might not have received the reservation info and the confirmation will help.
  • If you’ve already decided on the dates of your hotel stay then you’re starting from a disadvantage. Sometimes you have to travel on specific dates but if you can swing it, try to book hotels before you’ve settled on your dates.
  • Check multiple sites before you book: the hotel’s website and at least 2 hotel booking sites.
  • If you’re looking for a specific hotel and see that it’s full on the nights you need then be sure to check a second or third website as this can simply mean that the first websites’ allocation of rooms has sold out, not that the entire hotel is booked full.
  • The biggest risk with reserving through a hotel booking site isn’t that you’ll be scammed out of your money by an illegitimate business (all of the websites that I list in here are reputable) but that they will overbook your hotel and you’ll get an email a few weeks before your stay saying that your room is not available. This is very rare, but it does happen. Contacting hotels directly after you book (I’m mentioning this twice since it’s so important) makes this scenario much less likely.
  • If you book a non-refundable hotel (read the fine-print) you will never be able to cancel so be certain before you reserve it.
  • The more particulars matter to you (e.g. special room requests, king or queen sized bed, bathtub, space for cot) the less well booking sites will suit you. That said, many sites are very good at passing along your specific requests when you book, so be sure to include any necessary needs or preferences when you place the booking (there’s usually a form when you can add extra information).
  • For budget hotels it’s often better to book directly with the hotel. Usually they won’t be listed in the hotel booking sites anyways.
  • is travel websites that accept PayPal – if that’s important for you.
  • Email the hotel directly a day before arrival (regardless of how you book). It’s a pain but it’s worth the effort. If you show you care about your booking, your room, your stay then the hotel will too.